Undercover investigation into puppy trade broadcast on Dutch TV

A major undercover investigation into the European puppy trade has been broadcast by Dutch TV Channel SBS6 as part of its “Undercover in Nederland” series.  The complex 18 month project – which involved investigators infilitrating the puppy breeding industry in a number of countries – was carried out by Ecostorm on behalf of IFAW Netherlands.

You can view the film here and find out more about IFAWs campaign on the issue here.

Soya investigation to be broadcast in the US

The Ecologist Film Unit-produced “Killing Fields: the Battle to Feed Europe’s Factory Farms” is the latest EFU film to be broadcast in the US by satellite channel Link TV.  The hard-hitting film, which investigates the human rights abuses and environmental devastation linked to increasing soya cultivation in Paraguay,  will feature in the forthcoming edition of Earth Focus, which carries ”under-publicised stories on how changes to the Earth’s resources & climate are affecting people all around the world”.

LinkTV is available as a free 24/7 channel in 34 million US homes. Approximately 5.8 million adults in the US are regular viewers of LinkTV on satellite. Link’s website has an average of 200,000 unique visitors each month.

The Ecologist Film Unit (EFU) is a unique production company jointly operated by Ecostorm and the world’s leading environmental affairs magazine, The Ecologist. Launched in 2008, the EFU has, to date, produced seven films on a range of topical and largely unreported environmental issues, with a particular focus on investigating unpalatable aspects of the food industry. Further films are in development.

Revealed: shocking trade in Latin American horsemeat

Extensive media coverage has followed a major investigation which revealed that much of the horsemeat on sale in Belgium, Holland and France originates from Latin America where conditions have been found to be “cruel and barbaric”.

Operating undercover, Ecostorm investigators, working on behalf of a trio of NGOs – Gaia, One Voice and Wakker Dier – gained unique access to slaughterhouses and horse markets across Mexico and Brazil, where they documented lengthy journeys, cruel loading techniques and poor husbandry and conditions including shocking scenes of dead and dying horses.

Evidence obtained also included footage showing crippled horses being sold at markets, and young foals being loaded into trucks for the slaughterhouse. According to campaigners, the footage will shock and disgust viewers and raises serious questions about the little-known growing trade in horsemeat from Latin America to the European Union.

For further information and to view footage from the investigation see:



Church sells stake in Vedanta following Ecostorm exposé

An-overview-of-the-Vedanta-refinery-in-Lanjigarh-Orrisa.-300x225The Church of England has sold major holdings in the controversial British-owned mining company Vedanta Resources plc after admitting it has no confidence that the company is respecting the humans rights of local communities in areas of operation.

An Ecostorm investigation for The Ecologist magazine and The Independent newspaper last year revealed that the Church was among a host of well-known British companies and institutions who hold shares in the company. Halifax Pension Fund, Lloyds TSB Group Pension Fund, Norwich Union Life and Pensions Ltd and Prudential Managed Pension Fund, Land Rover Pension Trustees Ltd and Unilever Pension Fund were among those exposed as beneficial shareholders in the controversial mining conglomerate.

A number of local and regional authorities – including Suffolk County Council, Havering Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council – also have investments and all are now under pressure to sell their holdings too.

Vedanta has been criticised by NGOs and the UK Government for failing to properly consult tribal populations about plans for a bauxite mine in a remote part of eastern India. The mine would devastate a mountain that is considered sacred by the indigenous population.

The Church had sent a delegation to meet officials from the company in November 2009 to see for themselves the company’s on-going mining activities. However, after meeting senior management they had no confidence the company would improve its ethical behavior.

‘I am a passionate advocate for engagement with companies when we have ethical concerns,’ said John Reynolds, chairman of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). ‘However, after six months of engagement, we are not satisfied that Vedanta has shown, or is likely in future to show, the level of respect for human rights and local communities that we expect of companies in whom the Church investing bodies hold shares,’ he said.

Companies under fire for marketing controversial biofuel as “ethical and green”

blusky-300x210-1UK-based investment companies are marketing a controversial biofuel crop as “highly ethical and green” despite it being linked to conflicts over land, food security and growing hunger in developing countries, an Ecostorm investigation for The Ecologist magazine and The Independent has revealed.

The brokers have been criticised by environmental and anti-poverty campaigners for selling investments in jatropha because of increasing concerns over the crops’ impact on poor communities.

Jatropha, a bushy shrub which grows in Africa, Latin America and south-east Asia, is being touted as a “miracle” biofuel because the plants’ seeds contain a potentially valuable, non-edible, vegetable oil that can be used for biodiesel.

The investment companies are selling jatropha as the new “green oil” and claim it has the potential to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods in developing countries. They also maintain jatropha oil offers a viable alternative to fossil fuels. One of the plants’ biggest benefits, the companies claim, is that it thrives on low grade, marginal land, and in semi-arid areas with poor soils, thus not competing with food production.

But, according to campaigners, the supposed benefits of jatropha are largely unproven, and the experiences of many farmers encouraged to plant the crop do not tally with the claims of the biofuel industry. Yields have fallen short of predictions, claim farmers, and agricultural land has been destroyed or converted for jatropha, threatening food security, impacting on livelihoods and displacing local communities. Promised incomes have failed to materialise, it is claimed, because of poor demand for jatropha seeds.

A new report out today by Action Aid links the expansion of industrial biofuels, derived from crops including jatropha, palm oil, soya and sugar cane, to rising food prices and increasing global hunger. The group states that growing demand for crops for fuel is putting them in competition with those grown for food, driving food prices higher and affecting what and how much people eat in the developing world.

To read the full Ecologist investigation see: http://www.theecologist.org/trial_investigations/414659/jatropha_biofuels_uk_investors_sell_controversial_crop_as_green.html

To read The Independent’s coverage, see: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/seeds-of-discontent-the-miracle-crop-that-has-failed-to-deliver-1899530.html

To read ActionAid’s report see: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/doc_lib/meals_per_gallon_final.pdf”

Footage exposes illegal practices on EU pig farms

A Compassion in World Farming undercover investigation carried out by Ecostorm – together with a report by the European Food Safety Authority – has suggested that many of the 250 million pigs reared each year in the European Union are being farmed in illegal conditions.

A new film, launched in Brussels, presented graphic footage showing farmers’ apparent failure to follow the law and governments’ failure to enforce it. During an 18-month undercover investigation, starting in 2008, Compassion and Ecostorm visited 74 pig farms in six EU Member States: the UK, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

The vast majority of the pigs investigators saw had their tails docked (cut off) and most had no straw or other manipulable materials provided. EU law says clearly that pigs should not be routinely tail-docked and that enrichment materials must be provided.

The investigation uncovered tail-docked pigs living on barren concrete floors in conditions of utter deprivation that are totally unsuitable for these highly active, intelligent animals. Compassion in World Farming have filed formal complaints to the European Commission against several of these countries.

Top restaurant in veal controversy

Ecostorm, working with Compassion in World Farming, recently carried out investigations across the UK and Holland to reveal where some of the country’s top hotels and restaurants source their veal from – and established that the double Michelin-starred Espelette restaurant at The Connaught hotel was offering controversial Dutch veal while waiters claimed the meat was British. Dutch veal is controversial as it frequently involves rearing techniques described by campaigners as “cruel and unnecessary” and outlawed in the UK.

EFU climate film up for award

EFU film Melting Point – the new frontline in eco-activism has been invited for nomination in the ‘Reel Change’ award strand of the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival taking place in April and May 2010. The strand is seeking films under 15 minutes which address the human impacts of climate change. Melting Point sparked controversy upon its release with its investigation into claims of espionage, legal threats, violence and news manipulation by climate campaigners in the run up to the historic Kingsnorth power station protest.

Film sparks outrage over Halal slaughter

Working in conjunction with GAIA, Ecostorm has undertaken an ambitious investigation revealing the bloody and brutal conditions of halal abattoirs in Belgium. Operating undercover, Ecostorm investigations found appalling conditions and documented graphic cruelty in over nine slaughterhouses.

The footage gathered includes mass slaughter of sheep, un-stunned killing of baby goats and prolonged deaths of cattle in tailor made ‘bleeding boxes’ across the country. The findings of the investigation have received extensive coverage on the front pages of national papers and released on every major news channel across Belgium; provoking unprecedented outrage amongst consumers and politicians alike.

A parliamentary enquiry has been set up to examine the findings and change legislation, and the animal minister responsible for animal welfare stated publicly that she had seen the footage and that ‘ something needs to be done’.

Read coverage from VTM,Vilt, and Nieuwsblad Belgian newspapers.

New film documents how coastal privatisation threatens Indonesian communities

Working in conjunction with the Forest Peoples Programme and KIARA in Jakarta, Ecostorm has carried out an investigation in Sumatra that lifts the lid on plans to privatise the entire length of Indonesia’s 80,000km coastline. If the coastal privatization law known as HP-3 is ratified, vast coastal concessions will be granted to industrial prawn farms, mining interests and commercial tourism projects. The resulting film produced by the Ecologist Film Unit – Selling the Seas – reveals the enormous harm that this law will cause to the tens of thousands of people who live and depend on the coastline for their survival.

Killing Fields – how Paraguay’s soya trade leads to poisoning and violence

Much of the cheap meat and dairy produce sold in supermarkets across Europe is arriving as a result of serious human rights abuses and environmental damage in one of Latin America’s most impoverished countries, a powerful new investigation produced by the Ecologist Film Unit – the production company jointly owned by Ecostorm and The Ecologist magazine – has found.

The film, launched in conjunction with Friends of the Earth and Food and Water Watch, discovered that in Paraguay vast plantations of soy, principally grown for use in intensively-farmed animal feed, are responsible for a catalogue of social and ecological problems, including the forced eviction of rural communities, landlessness, poverty, excessive use of pesticides, deforestation and rising food insecurity.

The ten minute film, Killing Fields: the battle to feed factory farms – documents the experiences of some of those caught up in Paraguay’s growing conflict over soy farming and reveals, for the first time, how intensive animal farming across the EU, including the UK, is fuelling the problem.

Campaigners are using the film to highlight the ‘unsustainable’ nature of modern food production, and to spearhead efforts to raise awareness of the largely hidden cost of the factory farming systems supplying much of Europe’s cheap meat and dairy produce.

The moves come as international concern over global food insecurity grows, and amid fresh warnings that millions of the world’s poorest people face acute hunger in the coming months and years because of the twin threats of climate change – impacting farming in large parts of the developing world – and the ongoing credit crunch which has seen global food aid budgets slashed.

The full article is also available at The Ecologist.

UK companies linked to devastating Indian mine

An-overview-of-the-Vedanta-refinery-in-Lanjigarh-Orrisa.-300x225An investigation by Ecostorm for The Ecologist magazine and The Independent newspaper has revealed how leading banks, insurance providers, car manufacturers and brewery chains – amongst others – have pension funds or similar schemes invested in a company responsible for a controversial mine in Orissa which threatens, according to campaigners, to devastate a vital forest ecosystem and the homes of an unique tribal community.

Church organisations, charities and local authorities were also revealed as being shareholders in Vedanta Resources, a UK-registered, FTSE-100 listed company. Many of the investments are managed by third party fund managers.

Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite Industries Ltd wants to begin mining for bauxite – a raw form of aluminium – in the north western part of the Niyamgiri hills, in India’s Orissa state. The scheme was given the final go-ahead by the Indian Supreme Court after a protracted legal battle.

Government reports and research compiled by campaign groups has warned that the mining operation, which will see the extraction of millions of tons of bauxite from some 600 hectares of forest, will result in ecological degradation that could threaten the livelihoods of tribal people who rely on the land for sustaining their traditional way of life.

A nearby bauxite refinery, already constructed by another Vedanta subsidiary, Vedanta Alumina Ltd, to process bauxite from the proposed mine, has been blamed by local people for causing health problems, damaging crops and killing livestock. The refinery currently handles bauxite brought in from other regions and is expected to be expanded.

Campaigners claim several villages were razed to make way for construction of the Lanjigarh refinery, with up to 100 indigenous families evicted from their land and relocated to ‘rehabilitation colonies’ where locals claim they feel as though they are living ‘in a jail’ with little access to land for farming.

UPDATE: The Church of England has recently suspended its investments in Vedanta, following lobbying by campaign groups and publicity around the issue.

The Ecologist article and The Independant article.

Cruelty of Namibian seal hunt exposed

The-Namibian-seal-hunt-has-not-been-well-documented-until-now-1Secret footage obtained by Ecostorm in Namibia has revealed – for the first time – the brutal reality of the Namibian seal hunt and followed an unprovoked attack on investigators Jim Wickens and Bart Smithers.

The dramatic film shows seals being killed by hunters during a hunt at the Cape Cross Reserve in Namibia and hunters armed with clubs running towards the Ecostorm team. The journalists, who were working on assignment with Dutch lobby group Bont voor Dieren were violently attacked by seal hunters before being detained by police.

The pair were subsequently held by the Namibian authorities before being freed after agreeing to pay a fine for “entering a protected marine area without a permit.” The incident has been reported around the world and shone a spotlight on the little known Namibian seal hunt.

Namibia’s seals number about 800,000 and more than 90,000 seals will be clubbed to death during this year’s sealing season, which started in early July. The hunt takes place secretly to avoid the glare of publicity – and to avoid upsetting tourists. Namibia is a popular tourist destination, particular for Dutch and German nationals.

Dutch charity Bont voor Dieren is part of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) global Member Society.


Slaughtering the Amazon – global shoe brands in the spotlight over forest destruction

Cattle-ranching-in-Brazil-is-a-major-drive-of-deforestation-300x185As part of a three year Greenpeace investigation ‘Slaughtering the Amazon’, examining the market links of beef and leather from cattle grazing on illegally deforested lands in the Amazon, Ecostorm helped to expose a vital link between high street trainers and the destruction of this unique forest.

Working undercover, an Ecostorm team infiltrated the tanneries and shoe factories that produce Nike, Reebok, Adidas and other international shoe brands in South East Asia. During this investigation Ecostorm was able to prove that much of the leather used in these high street brands is sourced from slaughterhouses and processing plants in Brazil, that in turn source cattle from illegal ranches, one of the key drivers responsible for deforestation in the heart of the Amazon.
UPDATE: As a direct result of the Greenpeace investigation, all the major suppliers and shoe brands have carried out exhaustive surveys of their suppliers, and vowed to discontinue sourcing leather from the Amazon.

More from The Guardian on the Amazon deforestation.